Changing perceptions of wool

17 September 2012

A pilot study funded by The Woolmark Company and undertaken by the Queensland Institute of Dermatology (QID) has produced unforeseen results and converted the most sceptical of sceptics.

Chronic sufferers of atopic dermatitis are faced with a lifetime of constantly needing to apply skin moisturisers, avoid heat, and often rely on prescribed anti-inflammatories.

“One woman told me she had not been able to wear a bra in 25 years,” QID research co-ordinator Dr Eshini Perera said.

“The look on her face when she told me of her joy when she not only wore one but wore one with comfort was priceless.

“Another patient told me the level of skin disease on her feet was so chronic she used to have to bind them. But after taking part in our six-week pilot study and wearing the provided Superfine Merino wool socks, her feet looked just like everyone else’s. She called it ‘a success story’.

“We recruited 30 patients, many of whom went into the trial a little uneasy, doubtful that Merino wool garments could alleviate some of the chronic itch and inflammation they had been carrying for years.

“They have been so impressed with the outcomes of this trial they want to continue to wear the garments. They have been converted to Merino wool.”

This pilot study could perhaps be looked at as a medical breakthrough in the world of skin disease, where conventional treatments for atopic dermatitis such as topical steroid cream, daily moisturisers, oil baths and oral medicine have been the norm for quite some time.

“After trialling next-to-skin Superfine Merino garments the patients reported not only reduced doses of prescribed medication but also significant results in the look and feel of their skin.”

Dr Perera said the study had already exceeded expectations, given that the patients in the trial had chronic, debilitating and sometimes painful conditions.

Initially it was hoped the patients would merely tolerate the supplied garments, but according to the research team at QID the trial has led to a change in management plans.

One patient even told Dr Perera “she thought it was a load of rubbish”, but now says “she has not looked this good in 25 years”.

With common misconceptions that wool is an irritant and exacerbates itchy and dry skin, this pilot study may help change the public perception of wool, describing it as not only a low allergy risk, but also a low irritant with a therapeutic effect.

All the garments used in the trial, except for the custom-made bras, are commercially available. Hence, any sufferer of skin disease is able to see for themselves the benefits of Merino wool undergarments.

“Some of the patients are even keen to try Merino woollen garments with their children and most patients said they would continue to wear Merino.”

Read more about this Merino medical breakthrough here.